PSNI face ques­tions over probe into Twit­ter abuse

Irish Examiner - - News - Deborah McAleese

Po­lice in the North are fac­ing se­ri­ous ques­tions over their han­dling of a probe into the anony­mous Twit­ter ac­counts of of­fi­cers and staff al­legedly in­volved in racist abuse and trolling.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion was launched 12 months ago to trace the iden­tity of in­di­vid­u­als be­hind a num­ber of Twit­ter ac­counts, which also ap­peared to pub­lish in­for­ma­tion about on­go­ing po­lice op­er­a­tions.

The ac­counts un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion were dis­con­nected last week.

It is un­der­stood that the PSNI is now aware of the iden­tity of the of­fi­cers al­legedly in­volved.

It has emerged that none of the of­fi­cers have been sus­pended from duty, de­spite grow­ing public con­cern over a num­ber of the posts made from the ac­counts.

An in­ter­nal po­lice probe was launched 12 months ago, shortly after the PSNI’s chief con­sta­ble re­ceived on­line crit­i­cism for com­ments he made on so­cial me­dia to an of­fi­cer.

George Hamil­ton apol­o­gised after he told an of­fi­cer on Twit­ter in Au­gust last year to stop “wal­low­ing in self pity” and “dry your eyes” after he raised con­cern about the in­creas­ing pres­sures of the job.

Fol­low­ing the on­line ex­change, a num­ber of anony­mous Twit­ter users, sus­pected of be­ing po­lice of­fi­cers and staff, crit­i­cised the chief con­sta­ble and posted com­plaints about the job and PSNI man­age­ment.

A fake re­cruit­ment video was also made and posted on YouTube by one of the Twit­ter users un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The video shows a num­ber of PSNI of­fi­cers danc­ing be­side a po­lice he­li­copter and at other sites across North­ern Ire­land.

A voiceover says: “Are you con­sid­er­ing a ca­reer where ev­ery day you drive home you fear you will be shot? Do you want the rush of wondering if the IRA has planted a bomb un­der your car? Do you want to be told to dry your eyes when ask­ing for men­tal health sup­port?

“Then join the Po­lice Ser­vice of North­ern Ire­land to­day. Re­cruit­ment is now open to a host of new of­fi­cers to be be­lit­tled by se­nior man­age­ment teams, spat on by the public, ha­rassed by the po­lice om­buds­man and have their spir­its crushed.”

The SDLP’s Patsy McGlone said he was con­cerned to hear no­body has been sus­pended from duty.

“These tweets ranged from highly im­proper to grossly of­fen­sive. If po­lice of­fi­cers were be­hind these and the PSNI knows what has been said and posted, why haven’t they been sus­pended?” he said.

“It doesn’t do much for public con­fi­dence when it ap­pears that the PSNI is not tak­ing this type of abuse and trolling se­ri­ously.”

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